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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Arson suspect arrested in Lake Union fire that damaged about 30 boats

By Vonnai Phair Seattle Times

SEATTLE – White smoke rose from the shores of Portage Bay up to the Ship Canal Bridge Wednesday morning as a massive fire at a Seattle Boat Company storage facility on Lake Union damaged dozens of boats.

Crews responded to the 700 block of Northeast Northlake Way around 2 a.m., according to the Seattle Fire Department. There were 30 boats stacked in the dry storage facility involved in the fire, according to the department, and a company official said there were “about 85 or so” boats on site.

An arson bomb-squad detective found a man, 32, hidden inside a boat docked near the fire, according to Seattle police. He was in stable condition, and paramedics took him to Harborview Medical Center for medical care.

He was arrested and was expected to be booked into King County Jail once medically cleared, police said.

Firefighters found the blaze extended to an adjacent warehouse, confirmed no one was inside, and used ladder pipes to flow water on the exterior of the scene, the department said.

The fire was under control by 3:30 a.m., according to the department. Firefighters continued to extinguish hot spots and monitor for flare ups.

The foam the Fire Department used to fight the blaze is environmentally safe and biodegradable, said David Cuerpo, a Fire Department spokesperson.

The Department of Ecology and the U.S. Coast Guard were on scene Wednesday. Coast Guard crews conducted an aerial assessment and said they saw no sheening. Small amounts of foam remained in the water and will disperse naturally, the Coast Guard said. Pollution teams continued to monitor the situation.

The agencies deployed buoys to prevent additional hazardous chemicals leaking from the boats into Portage Bay and Lake Union, Cuerpo said.

Elizabeth Bohling, the Seattle Boat Company’s assistant general manager, said the facility has security measures in place.

“We’ve got locked gates, we have a lot of camera footage, and we’ve got security systems inside the building as well,” she said, adding that the security footage is being reviewed and “has been provided to the detectives for evidence.”

Sikey Vlahos, owner of Voula’s Offshore Cafe, and his brother arrived at the restaurant across the street from the fire around 5:45 a.m.

“We encountered a fire across the street at Seattle Boat,” Vlahos said. “It was at the point where they were just trying to put it out.”

Sergio Soto, an employee at the nearby Ivar’s Salmon House, was traveling on Interstate 5 before arriving at work around 6 a.m. when he said he “started smelling something was burning.”

Shortly after 9 a.m. Wednesday, white smoke was billowing from the fire scene up to the Ship Canal Bridge above. Cars passing the scene on Northeast Northlake Way drove over white foam on the street.

By 10 a.m., smoke was no longer visibly rising from the scene.

Northeast Northlake Way and Northeast Pacific Street remain blocked in both directions between Sixth Avenue Northeast and Seventh Avenue Northeast, according to the Seattle Department of Transportation.